What we learned from the ELMs net zero Test and Trial

An image of a farming landscape

We know that the farming sector can play a key role in combatting climate change. The new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) must provide farmers with adequate support to reach this potential. Read on to find out how the 600 farmers and growers taking part in our Test & Trial thought this could best be achieved.

The ELMs (Environmental Land Management schemes) T&T (tests and trials) programme was set up by Defra to test building blocks of the new schemes in a real-life environment.

The NFU got involved in the T&Ts with the aim of securing future schemes available to every farm business with options that couple sustainable food production with viable environmental measures and help deliver on our net zero ambitions.

We want schemes to be simple, provide certainty and fairly reward farmers for taking part.

Uncertain time for ELMs

Recent political events have created uncertainty about the shape and content of future ELM schemes.

Defra reassure the NFU that the T&Ts and other co-design activity is being used to inform ELM policy. The Defra T&T programme continues as the new schemes evolve.

Scope of the T&T  

The NFU led four ELM T&Ts involving 320 farmers in workshops and one-to-ones and a further 1300 members contributed to surveys.

The NFU led T&Ts include engaging commercial business, IPM (integrated pest management), net zero and farmer group plans.

Key findings

Across the four T&Ts the key findings were:

  • Payments
    There needs to be the right incentives in place and certainty of payments if farmers are to engage in good faith with the ELM process.
  • Advice
    • Quality advice that farmers can trust is key.
    • Future ELM advisers must be impartial, have local knowledge, credibility, technical knowledge and be able to signpost farmers to further information.
    • A variety of advice delivery methods should be available.
    • Specific support and actions should be tailored to farming sectors and individual farm businesses to ensure the information provided is relevant and applicable.
  • Collaboration
    Farmers are open to the idea of collaboration to deliver public goods. There is clearly a valuable role for farmer groups, especially those that have been able to establish effective work patterns and the members have a sense of ownership, identity and direction.
  • IPM
    Existing IPM plans could be used effectively as part of an introductory assessment under a future Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme. Evidence-based, crop-specific IPM planning tools can then be used to capture detailed IPM activity and encourage commitments to increase uptake of IPM. Economic factors were the biggest encouragement to implement IPM.
  • Net zero
    GHG calculators raise awareness of carbon emissions and support on farm decision to secure net zero gains. Net zero support and actions should be tailored to farming sectors and individual farm businesses to ensure the information provided is relevant and applicable.

For more detail read our NFU Briefing – Summary of NFU Led ELMs Test and Trial

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